The purpose of this article is to document primary source information concerning the Federal Aviation Agency’s (FAA) Tactical Net. The source is Herndon Center tape 5DCC 1923 Ops Phone 5128, Position 28 13-15-1415 UTC. Thanks to the inclination of air traffic specialists at Herndon Center to leave lines open we have a window into FAA Headquarters and, by extension, a brief window into the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Strategic Information and Operations Center (SIOC).
The Commission Staff interview with Mike Weikert established who was sitting where in the FAA’s Washington Operations Center (WOC). Pete Falcone was running the Tactical Net, his recorder was Chuck Gaffey. Mike Weikert was running the Primary Net, his assistant was Tom Taffe. A sketch of the WOC positions is in notes from the Weikert interview.
According to Weikert there was “little traffic on his net.” According to Major Chambers at the National Military Command Center nothing was passed on the Primary Net. From notes I took, “virtually nothing being said–dead air space–dropped at some point.”
When I interviewed Taffe he could identify everyone who was on the dais at the front of the WOC, his line of sight was through the operations position for the Primary Net. He could not identify who was operating the Primary Net. According to a memo I prepared, “he could not recall who manned the primary net and was reluctant to place Mike Weikert at that position.”
At some point, the Primary Net was for all intents and purposes merged with the Tactical Net, “dropped at some point” in Chambers words. On the tape for position 28 we hear one potential Primary Net participant, the FBI’s Jeff Bauer at the SIOC come up on the Tactical Net. My assessment is that he did that because the net he should have been on, the Primary Net, was not available. The Primary Net was activated at 9:20; Bauer called at 9:21 and was directed to the Tactical Net as we shall hear.
We begin by identifying position 28 as an open line to the Tactical Net.
Tactical net identified
There was confusion within FAA as to which net was which. At 9:18 Marcus Arroyo, Eastern Region manager called Pete Falcone and asked which net he was on. That conversation can be heard here. 091800 FAA Tactical Net That was two minutes before the Primary Net was activated, an indication that the Primary Net was redundant.
FBI calls seeking information
Immediately after the Primary Net was activated Jeff Bauer called to establish contact with FAA. That request can be heard here. 092100 Bauer SIOC announced. Seconds later he is announced as joining the Tactical Net. That continuation can be heard here. 092116 Jeff Bauer joined tactical net.
Bauer leaves the line open
Bauer did not hang up on the Tactical Net. For the next nearly eight minutes background conversations at the SIOC are heard. It is clear from those conversations that the FBI had no new information and was in the process of getting itself organized at the SIOC. For example, the date of the last World Trade Center attack was discussed. At one point Bauer is heard explaining that he is on the FAA’s “Ops” net. That statement can be heard hear. 092315 FBI on FAA Ops Net
FAA realizes there is an open mike
The window into the FBI SIOC continued for over five more minutes before someone, probably Pete Falcone, realized he had an open mike on his net. That realization can be heard here. 092850 Open Mike on Tac Net
The time of the open window into the FBI SIOC was just under 8 minutes, from 9:21 to nearly 9:29. That covers the time that the national level was getting itself organized. The FAA’s Primary Net was activated at 9:20. The White House Secure Video Teleconference, chaird by Richard Clarke, was activated at 9:25 and becaome operational at 9:40. The NMCC was in the process of convening a Significant Events Conference which was terminated in favor of an Air Threat Conference. Not one of the three entities, four included the FBI, knew that a fast moving unknown, AA 77, was approaching from the West.
In his testimony to the Commission, Norman Mineta cited a time of 9:20 that he was operational in the President’s Emergency Operations Center (PEOC). Logs of the day, as reported by the Commission in its report, place both Mineta and the Vice President in the PEOC after 10:00.
Mineta was simply wrong in his recall and researchers and writers who argue from a position of accepting Mineta’s testimony have placed themselves in an untenable position. There is no primary or secondary information that supports Mineta’s testimony. Indeed, the convergence of evidence is conclusive that Mineta misspoke and information he claimed pertained to AA 77, in fact, pertained to UA 93.
93, Go pass that
There is one brief background conversation just before 10:15 at Operations Position 28 which suggests that erroneous information concerning UA 93 was being passed along from the FAA’s Washington Operations Center (WOC).
The background voice said, “OK, number one is 93, it’s 20 minutes outside of DC, go pass that.” That brief transmission can be heard here. 101430 UA 93 20 minutes out.
Despite the known status of UA 93, someone at the WOC decided to pass along erroneous information, information that could only have come from a Traffic Situation Display which depicted the new flight plan for UA 93 as entered by Cleveland Center. According to landing records at Reagan National, UA 93 “landed” at 10:28.
The Battle of 9-11, Redux
The attack began at 5:45 when Mohammed Atta entered the National Airspace System at Portland, Maine. The counterattack began when Boston Center declared a hijack at 8:25. The air defense response began when NEADS was notified at 8:40, according to the MCC/T log. The FAA Tactical Net was activated at 8:50. At 9:03 the nation knew it was under attack.
As we have learned in this article it took the national level an additional 15-45 minutes to get itself organized. No one at any level had the situational awareness to accurately inform the National Command Authority which as of at least 10:15 was being misinformed.
To be continued….